I'd be willing to bet the lower ball joints are the squeekers.
If they have no zerks, they are likely original.
I got a lot nicer ride on my old 2000 2.5 2wd by replacing the shocks and going with a wider/shorter tire set. I went with 235/65-16 and ditched the 225/75-15s (I think). It really...
My 2000 3.0 4wd MO5D came with 245/75-16 tires and 4.10 gears.
It rode jouncy and gave average performance.
Years ago, I put a set of Explorer take-offs (Craigslist) Dueler AT Revos, 235/75-15.
They woke that truck up nicely, with better take-offs and 5th gear was more responsive. I had to...
I've seen a lot of old vinyl floor mats as gap guards.
Unless you are referring to the actual inner fender liners. There are parts mounted to those. Junkyard! (I have a set of those from a 90, but won't ship them).
I'm gonna guess wiring issue that gets aggravated by romping on it. Try wiggling the wiring to that circuit, along with the other major engine harnesses that could flex with engine torque. Look for a loose fuse too.
I strongly suspect they are EXACTLY the same. Mid-year 01 s when they started putting in the 2.3 Duratech, if I'm not mistaken.
If you do find anything different, use your old engine parts/wiring.
If nothing else, take a bunch of photos of the 01 and compare them to yours.
I seriously doubt...
Pull your dash apart, look at it, get numbers off it, whatever, to match what you find in the JY. Then you'll know which tools to take, how to access it, etc. before you get there. I'd guess 99 and up Explorers, but have no idea about the newer years...